I wake up completely refreshed after the bath the night before and ready to start my third day. This time I’m also going to tour the city on wheels, so I head out to the Yuda Onsen Tourist Center and get a bicycle and a tourist map. First I’ll start with the farthest destination and little by little will retrace my steps, so first of all, I decide to go to Joeiji temple. Located in a beautiful mountain landscape lies Joeiji Temple, which is practically a review of the heyday in Yamaguchi’s history.
In the 15th century, Yamaguchi was ruled by the Ouchi, a powerful clan that monopolized trade with Ming China and whose vast territory stretched across western Japan. In this climate of economic prosperity, Yamaguchi held a position of cultural hub that didn’t pale in comparison to Kyoto, and was home to many renowned artists.Such is the case of Sesshu, Japan’s foremost Zen monk and ink wash painting artist, who is credited with designing the beautiful garden that decorates this temple. Joeiji’s name, however, comes from the time of the Mori clan, who built the temple in the Hiroshima area in honor of Mori Takamoto and moved it to its present location in 1863. Walking through the garden is like immersing yourself in one of Sesshu’s scrolls, and its imperturbable tranquility gives visitors a moment of serenity and reflection. The visit to Joeiji can also be accompanied by an augmented reality explanation in English.
My journey continues on to Rurikoji Temple, one of the must-see places of Yamaguchi for its five-story pagoda, a National Treasure. The pagoda is one of the photos that will most surely appear in touristic brochures, but, although it sounds cliché, it can’t be compared with the experience of seeing it in person. Built in 1442 in honor of Ouchi Yoshihiro, this pagoda is a representative work of medieval Japanese architecture and the power of the Ouchi clan, which invested heavily in art and culture.The view of the pagoda is already impressive from the pond at the main entrance, but as we approach little by little we will be able to appreciate its beauty in much more detail. Its elegant cypress bark roofs are built in such a way that each floor is slightly smaller than the previous one, giving the structure a very dynamic and stylish appearance. The unique appeal of this monument has earned it the reputation of being one of the most prominent pagodas in Japan, alongside the Horyuji Temple in Nara and the Daigoji Temple in Kyoto.
Before heading back to the Yuda Onsen area, I decide to drop by the Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum of Art, where Sesshu’s most famous National Treasure, the Landscape of the Four Seasons, is exhibited in virtual reality. In Joeiji Temple you can see his garden, but thanks to this experience you will be able to delve even further into this artist’s creative world. The original work, which is 16 meters in length, presents a panorama where the seasons follow each other whimsically. Meanwhile, the nature and people who inhabit the scroll are carried away without resistance by the relentless passage of time.Thanks to this exhibition, you’ll be able to appreciate in detail how Sesshu represents the outline of the mountains, every little detail that predicts the change of season, the lives of the inhabitants of the work and their tasks. The experience is an immersion in the worldview of this artist, who broke the schemes of the world of ink wash painting in Japan.
After so much pedaling and appreciating art, my appetite is whetting, so I return to the Yuda Onsen area to plan the next visit and eat something. Right in the town center is the Choshuya restaurant, which offers one of the typical dishes of the prefecture: kawarasoba. Kawara means roof tile, and soba are very popular buckwheat noodles in Japan.When you see a photo of kawarasoba for the first time, it may look quite unusual. “Do they really eat the noodles on a roof tile?” You might think to yourself. Well yes, that’s exactly what they do. When the plate is brought to you, you will see a portion of green tea soba noodles, accompanied by beef and strips of Japanese omelette, served, indeed, on a tile. It is advisable to try it not only for the novelty, but because apart from attracting attention visually, it is very good! The noodles are toasted on the tile until they are crispy and are then dipped in a special sauce that gives a very tasty touch to the ensemble. This will undoubtedly be one of the most curious surprises of the trip.
Well, now that I have crossed off several of Yamaguchi’s must-haves, I can return the bike and indulge in a slightly more relaxed activity. At Lawaku, a Japanese culture workshop establishment, you can book a session of wagashi making (Japanese sweets), matcha tea making and kimono trial. First, they let me choose the kimono that I’ll wear that day. I ended up picking a cute pink kimono that caught my attention. Then, they take me downstairs and teach me how to mold sweets in the shape of flowers or even carp. Although the result may not be as beautiful as the teacher’s, it has been a good chance to learn about a not so well known aspect of Japanese gastronomy. When everything is ready, it is be time to go to the tatami room and prepare the matcha tea, which will be the perfect combination for my wagashi sweets. The key is to control the amounts of powdered tea and hot water well, as well as getting enough bubbles to come out when mixing. It is quite the experience to try this in a kimono, since it requires some concentration to do everything correctly without staining your sleeves.
After having tea, I go out to the park next door and take some photos in a tatami house with a Zen garden; all of this with virtually no other tourists in sight. As I head to Yuda Onsen station at the end of my trip in Yamaguchi, I cannot help but think about all the things I’ve been able to do in three days: walk through living history in Hagi, enjoy its blue sea, tread the path that samurai and feudal lords traveled, bathe in a great onsen area, making wagashi, and walking in a kimono… This would be the trip that many have dreamed of for a long time. A trip through ancient Japan, the authentic one; the one known to very few and seen at your own pace. What do you think? Would you like to come and live your own Japan in Yamaguchi?
Yamaguchi / Yuda Onsen area (Access to Yamaguchi / Yuda, route information, historical information)
Access to Yamaguchi Prefecture
Approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes from Tokyo Haneda Airport to Yamaguchi Ube Airport
Shinkansen (Bullet train)
Shin-Yamaguchi Station (accessible from Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, etc.)
From Shin-Yamaguchi Station, take the JR Yamaguchi Line and get off at Yamaguchi Station (about 25 minutes) Or get off at Yuda Onsen Station (about 20 minutes)
Cultural and Tourist Spots
Business hours, Closed days, Prices, etc. may differ from those listed; please check with the store in advance.
Yudaonsen Tourist Information Center
At the Yuda Onsen Tourist Information Center located in the heart of the Yuda Onsen Hot spring Town, you can collect information about sightseeing spots in town and inns to stay at. This information center is unique because of the footbath in front of the building. It’s free to use and is a great place for travelers and locals to interact. Towels and teacups are for sale, so you can come empty-handed. Cosmetics using the water of Yuda Onsen and original souvenir items are also for sale. There is a bicycle rental service.
[Designated as a historic site and a place of scenic beauty]
Jyoei-ji Temple was built as a villa by Ouchi Masahiro, a leading daimyo who ruled most of western Japan during the Muromachi period, about 500 years ago. It is said that the garden was built by Sesshu, the best ink painter in Japan. Sesshu’s Garden was designated as a historic site and a scenic spot by the national government in 1926 as a masterpiece of a Japanese garden full of Zen taste. You can spend a relaxing time in the calm garden.
General ￥300, junior high and high school students ￥200.
[April-October] 8: 00 am – 5:00 pm (Last admission is at 4:30 pm),
[November-March] 8: 00 am – 4:30 pm (Last admission is at 4:00 pm).
The five-storied pagoda is the tenth oldest in Japan and is also one of the three famous pagodas in Japan. Tokyo Sky Tree, a tourist attraction in Tokyo, borrowed the architectural style of the five-storied pagoda for it is strength against earthquakes, and is a chance to see traditional Japanese architecture up close. It was put under construction by Lord Ouchi, a daimyo who gained wealth through trade with Ming China. Lord Ouchi built this area by taking inspiration from the cultural cityscape of Kyoto, and among them, the Rurikoji Five Storied Pagoda is considered a masterpiece and is designated as a national treasure. It stands in front of the cherry trees and maple trees , promising a beautiful view in the spring and autumn, but this scenery is wonderful regardless of the season. The pagoda is lit up at night and is perfect for a leisurely walk in the evening.
Free(Archives museum: Adult ￥200, junior and high school students ￥100, elementary school students ￥50)
500 years ago, Yamaguchi was a city like Venice for Japan. It gained power by trading with the continent across the sea, and boasted strength in power over the former capital, Kyoto. Its greatest asset was the ink painter, Toyo Sesshu (1420-1506), who studied abroad in Ming China which was at the forefront of culture at the time. The Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum has a large collection ink paintings by Sesshu and by the Unkoku school which inherited the style of Sesshu. Their works are exhibited in a special space with tatami mats. Please fully enjoy the Japanese style by sitting on the tatami mat with your shoes off and take in the ink painting as well as the detailed introductory videos using digital technology.
General Admission: Adults ¥300 Students ¥200
※ Extra charges are made for special exhibitions. Rates vary individually.
9:00 am – 5:00 pm (Last admission: 4:30 pm)
Mondays (except when the Monday is a holiday), the New Year holidays, for setting up new exhibits ※ Subject to change depending on exhibit
LAWAKU is a space where you can enjoy Japanese culture and seasonal tea. We offer traditional Japanese sweets making workshops and kimono rentals. In addition, under the theme of "Natural Yamaguchi", we also manufacture and sell additive-free, coloring-free, sugar-free dried fruits and vegetables, and offer snacks friendly to the body.
※Please check the website for details of each workshop.
※We ask participants to wash their hands, disinfect, wear gloves and masks.
※Each kimono for the kimono experience will be washed and cleaned.
※Takeout is possible.
It was built in 1520 by Ouchi Yoshioki, who divided the spirit from Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture and moved it to Yamaguchi. Ise Jingu is one of the most famous shrines that is dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami, who is worshiped by the Japanese people as a guardian god.
At that time, Yamaguchi Daijingu was the only shrine that divided a spirit from Ise Jingu, so during the Samurai era (Edo period), it was called “Ise-sama of the west (Ise Jingu in western Japan)” by the many worshipers that payed their respects. Every New Year, many people visit to wish for good health.
It’s a quiet and calm place with beautiful greenery from spring to summer, and autumn foliage in the fall.
Francis Xavier of the Jesuits came to Japan with the permission from the highest authority in Japan to spread Christianity. However, upon arriving in Kyoto he was discouraged to find that he could not meet the emperor or the highest authority at the time, Oda Nobunaga. Therefore, Xavier started missionary activities in Japan centered in Yamaguchi, relying on Lord Ouchi of Yamaguchi City who was kind to him. To commemorate these activities of Xavier, the Xavier Memorial Church was erected. The building from that time no longer remain, but the current church contains items used for the voyages from Spain and items related to the history of Japanese hidden Christians. Father Cangas is Spanish.
Free(A donation of ¥100 upon entry is appreciated)
Business hours, Closed days, Prices, etc. may differ from those listed; please check with the store in advance.
Choshuya Yuda store / Kawara soba, Yamaguchi specialty food, Izakaya
With the motto "Spreading the charm of Yamaguchi Prefecture", this shop offers delicious Yamaguchi food such as the famous Kawara soba and fresh seafood.
Kawara soba is a specialty dish of Yamaguchi prefecture that is eaten by grilling soba on a steaming roof tile and dipping it in a sauce. The crispy soba noodles on the roof tile will surely be a highlight of your trip.There is a large selection of other items on the menu such as Yamaguchi Choshu chicken, yakitori, and hot pot with blowfish.It is a restaurant where you can enjoy a set meal at lunch and a drink of Yamaguchi’s sake at night.
Kawara soba ￥1,100
11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Irregular holidays (closed on December 31st and January 1st)
Located near Yamaguchi Daijingu, you can eat healthy seasonal set meals. It is a comfortable place where time flows slowly.
The shop, which renovated an old folk house a has a cute interior with fashionably placed antique furniture.
Lunch plates made with plenty of local seasonal vegetables is popular among the residents.
One of the charms is that Hagi-yaki ware is used for the plates. A set with dessert is recommended.
Lunch set meal ￥1,000 (with dessert +￥200)
11: 00 am – 5: 30 pm ※ Reservations only available at night
Confirmation required due to irregular holidays (see Facebook)
Ajiwai-dokoro Akagi / Seafood / Set meal / Izakaya
A popular Japanese izakaya near the central shopping district of Yamaguchi City. We recommend a fish lunch meal for its outstanding freshness, as the seafood here is directly managed by the fishmonger.
There is a variety of lunch selections such as grilled fish, simmered fish, and seafood bowl, but the sashimi set meal is the most recommended.
About 3 to 4 types of sashimi are served on a plate, along with side dishes and fried foods, making it a satisfying lunch.
At night, we recommend pairing the seafood dishes with local Yamaguchi sake.
Various fish lunches ¥750 to ¥1,600
11: 30 am – 2: 00 pm, 5: 30 pm – 11: 00 pm
2-6-24 Dojomonzen, Yamaguchi
Generer / Cafe
It’s a hidden cafe with a nice Japanese garden. In summer, you can eat delicious fluffy shaved ice. The cakes here are also great!
A perfect place to take shade from the blazing hot summers of Japan while helping yourself to shaved ice.
When the weather is nice, the cafe is great for relaxing and enjoying the garden scenery.
In this quaint space, you can forget about your daily life and enjoy delicious sweets and coffee.
Take out is possible.
Various types of shaved ice ¥600, cake (with drink) ¥820
11: 00am -7: 00pm
5-25 Nishikicho, Yamaguchi City
Gelato ＆ Coffee Pelo / Cafe
A popular shop with a wide variety of fresh and smooth gelato made from local ingredients. Take a break at this old folk house style store.
For those who can’t choose between flavors, because let me tell you- it’s going to be hard, they offer double and triple scoops too.
The shop is located in the middle of the Yuda Onsen district, so eating this gelato after soaking your feet in a free foot bath nearby or after taking a soak in a hot spring may be a unique way to enjoy this area.
Also recommended for dessert after a meal.
gelato from 380 yen
11: 30am-6: 00pm
Tuesdays, other irregular days off (check on Facebook)
If you want to have a non-Japanese meal, we recommend this casual French restaurant where you can enjoy a conversation with a cheerful French chef.
When ordering ‘Today’s Recommended Lunch’, you can choose either meat and fish for your main dish.Apart from the course, we also recommend the restaurant’s specialty, ‘escargot simmered in oil.’
It is excellent with bread.Very reasonably priced and delicious.
The seats fill up, so we recommend you make a reservation.
* Escargot boiled in oil ¥990
Today’s recommended lunch (salad, main dish, dessert, bread) ¥1,490